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Firefighters 'Compelled' to Address Trustee's Comments

Members of the Garden City Professional Fire Fighters Association state trustee Dennis Donnelly made inaccurate comments during EPOA debate.

Trustee Dennis Donnelly and his challenger, Francine Ryan, debate the issues at a recent town hall Q&A hosted by the EPOA. (Credit: Carisa Giardino)
Trustee Dennis Donnelly and his challenger, Francine Ryan, debate the issues at a recent town hall Q&A hosted by the EPOA. (Credit: Carisa Giardino)
Members of the Garden City Professional Fire Fighters Association are still getting things off their chests, this time addressing what they describe as inaccurate comments made by trustee Dennis Donnelly during the recent candidate town hall Q&A against challenger Francine Ryan.

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Members say they are "compelled" to "address and correct" comments Donnelly made during the debate and have released the following statement:
 
During a recent Eastern Property Owners Association (EPOA) town hall meeting on January 15th at Stewart School, we feel inaccurate comments were made by Trustee Donnelly which we are compelled to address and correct:
 
Switching dispatching duties to Firecom has cut between three and three-and-a-half minutes off time of arrival.

Actually response time, prior to Firecom averaged 4 minutes and 22 seconds; since switching to Firecom average response has INCREASED to 5 minutes and 13 seconds.

 
Past statements, which have contradicted this response time information have been made by various village officials and news sources:
 
“Many thanks to our fire and police departments for their first class efforts to protect us. This was especially evident when the first firefighters arrived at a home in the eastern section approximately 2 minutes after the alarm was CALLED IN.” Trustee Nick Episcopia, EPOA newsletter January 2008
 
“We have a 2 minute response time. There are only 2 fire departments on Long Island that are career and volunteer fire departments, manned 7 days a week, Garden City and Long Beach. Fire doubles every minute, and the ability to respond quickly reduces damage.”
Garden City volunteer fire chiefs, WPOA General Meeting minutes January 18, 2011

 
“Garden City has 80 active volunteer and 36 career firefighters and 3 firehouses with 4 engines, 2 tower ladders and heavy rescue equipment. They are able to respond to any call in Garden City in 2 minutes or less. That, he added is a selling point for commercial business, which gets a discount on their insurance.”
Fire Chief Jim Meehan, WPOA General meeting minutes Sept. 10, 2008

 
“The Garden City Fire Department has the ability to arrive at the scene of a fire or life threatening emergency in less than three minutes.”
Incorporated Village of Garden City, Annual Report, 2008-2009.

 
In 2012 there were 5 building fires and with only one being at night.

Actually village records indicate that there were 6 house fires in 2012 with 2 occurring at night. Village records also indicate that since 2007 exactly 50%, 9 of 18, building fires in Garden City were between 8pm and 8am, the exact times the BOT plans to remove career staff from satellite stations.

 
Fire does not double in size. It depends on the circumstances.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), several studies on fire growth show that fire does double in size every minute.

 
It was mentioned that there are 100 volunteer firefighters.

Clarification: According to the ICMA report (page 20) there are only 45 volunteer firefighters trained and certified as structural-interior firefighters, able to enter burning buildings. Many of the remaining volunteers are not capable of being certified, ICMA report page 28

 
It was mentioned that the 100 volunteer staff had 3,460 hours of training in 2012 and the career staff had 901 hours of training.

According to village records the career staff of 31 fire fighters had 2,909 hours of training in 2012.

 
It was mentioned that the Long Beach fire Department, also a combination department, responded to 5,000 calls in 2012 and had 17 working fires.

After contacting Long Beach fire officials they have confirmed that of those 5,000 calls 1,300 were fire calls. Garden City responded to 1,654 fire calls in 2012.

 
According to ICMA, “Thousands of departments, including Garden City and Long Beach, employ a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters. They usually provide “faster service and cost less”-an average of $93 per person in the Northeast in 2003, according to the International City/ County Managers Association, ICMA. Newsday, Nov 3, 2005
 
We feel it is important to have the facts out in public, as inaccurate data and information can and has lead to cuts in your fire service.
 
As always, we are proud to serve the Village of Garden City as we have done for over sixty years protecting the lives and property of all its residents.

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Bill Sweeney January 25, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Interesting
john ertle January 26, 2013 at 10:33 AM
Clearly the paid firefighters have an opinion of all of these important issues and response times. When reading of their objections we must consider that the ICMA report was issued by a respected independent firm of experts and as far as i can tell, the statistics being provided above are being posted here cannot be taken as anything more than the opinion of a group of paid fire fighters who provide no source of their information except to say it came from Village records and do not even sign their name! I feel a bit more comfortable with statistics provided by an independent party. If the paid emplyees feel the ICMA report is not accurate, perhaps they should sit down with ICMA and discuss the differences. Until they can prove them as inaccurate, how can we rely on statements posted here by unknown individuals, especially since the are being provided by those who livelihood is directly affected by them?
GCRes1 January 26, 2013 at 07:43 PM
When reading the objections of the paid firefighters, please remember the relative interests of each party to the debate. The firefighters are trying to save their world class salaries and benefits. The trustees are unpaid volunteers working to make the village we all live in a better place. Who has more credibility?
Bill Sweeney January 26, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Well, while I am no fan of unions...at all...in this case, do you think a little bit of a power play may be part of this? Perhaps?
GCRes1 January 26, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Bill: huh? Do you mean that the trustees, who run the village, are using their "power" to run the village in the best interests of the village? Then I agree. The paid fire department is overpaid, overstaffed and interested only in protecting their status quo. Again, each side's statements should be viewed within the context of their personal interests. The paid fire department has no credibility on these issues. They are speaking from the gravy train.
GCres2 January 26, 2013 at 08:22 PM
im quite interested in how mr. ertle is so sure that icma is a "respected independent firm of experts." is this your opinion? are you backing your statements with any proof? does being an "independent party" mean youre 100% right? no mistakes ever made? from what im reading here it seems like the paid fire fighters are unveiling something that might need to be looked into. and gcres1 are you sure the paid fire fighters have no credibility in this issue? did you confirm this or is this your opinion too? think before you post comments like you just did. the paid firefighters apparently speaking from facts and not opinions like you two.
GCRes1 January 26, 2013 at 08:52 PM
when it comes to this debate, where on one side there are volunteer trustees who have one clear interest (balancing services and costs in a way that is best for the VILLAGE) and on the other side PAID firefighters whose arguments and views coincide with their own FINANCIAL interests in continuing to bleed this village for outlandish pay and benefits, I know who I'll listen to. This is really a debate between management and labor, and citizens/taxpayers of GC are MANAGEMENT.
GCres2 January 26, 2013 at 09:14 PM
im glad you brought this up actually because im still trying to figure out what "financial interests" and presenting facts have to do with each other? are you again assuming whats going on here or are you stating facts? Its quite apparent, the information "management" presented was inaccurate. or maybe the source from which they got their information from was inaccurate. either way they need to look into the facts the paid fire fighters are presenting. this is not time for opinions and assumptions.
john ertle January 27, 2013 at 12:12 AM
GCres2 My referencing them as respected independent firm is my opinion based on reading the numerous reports that are published online in reference to studies they have performed for many large cities and municipalities across the US in addition to the methodology and process they followed, the results of which became the basis for their opinion. They have been doing these studies and providing recommendations for close to 100 years. Because of this I would consider them experts. I think we agree that if the paid firefighters feel there are inaccuracies in the information contained in the report they should be investigated. Why have they waited till this week to present them when the report was issued quite some time ago? Why have they not demanded that the Village Administrator review their findings with the ICMA findings. One thing that gives ICMA credibility, in my opinion, is that they signed their name to the report and issued it to the Village vs presenting the findings on a blog. Now can I ask you a question? You note to gcres1 that " either way they need to look into the facts the paid firefighters are presenting" You note what they printed as "facts". Is it your opinion that they are presenting "facts"? Are you backing that statement with proof?
GCres2 January 27, 2013 at 01:56 AM
john ertle, im not really up to snuff on all this but i can go by what i have in front of me. if they quote an icma statement and site where and when it was made then its not their opinion. if they quote a fire chief and site where and when it was said then its not their opinion. if they quote a trustee but can site where one can find the correct information which contradicts the trustees statement then its not their opinion. if they quote another trustee praising the fire fighters for 2 minute responses in a 2008 newsletter then why is response time even an issue in 2013? if a statement was made by village officials but the current icma report, including a page number sited, contradicts the information then how is this report to be taken as accurate? (whos right, whos wrong?) but again, its not their opinion. so it just seems to me they arent speaking without doing research. which might have just answered your question on why it took so long. and your statement about them protecting their livelyhood, i actually respect them for that especially since they arent making statements and presenting information they cant back up. they have signed their name to their findings and this is not a blog, its a village online newspaper. and quite frankly i wouldnt jump to conclusions on the icma's expert methods. i just googled the words "icma inaccurate" and the information is too much for me to even read. good night.
Bill Sweeney January 27, 2013 at 10:50 AM
Huh? I mean that the volunteers want to run the show and not be considered second class to the pro firemen.
Robert January 27, 2013 at 07:48 PM
GC Annual report 2010 - 2011 The Garden City Fire Department is unique in its design, as it is one of two combination paid and volunteer fire departments on Long Island. The use of career personnel insures that calls for assistance are always answered and that response times to alarms are kept well below the national average. On the average Garden City Fire Department units begin to arrive within three minutes of the receipt of an alarm. This quick response allows an increase survival chance for victims trapped by fire, as well as reduced fire damage GC Patch Chief Cavarra Speaks Out About ICMA Report, Fire Department Tensions On Aug. 6, all fire department dispatching duties were turned over to Nassau County Firecom, a move Chief Cavarra called a "no-brainer." Chief Cavarra noted that the department's response time prior to the switch averaged "eight or nine minutes" and that using Firecom has shaved at least five minutes off the current response time. Well I think if the annual report says “within three minutes” and Chief Cavara is noted that switching to Firecom dispatching shift has shaved off at least five minutes, do the math. Last time I looked, you can’t shave at least five minutes off of a three minute response. Removing the Professional Firefighters from the East and West stations at night does not guarantee any quicker response. It may mean no response at all from these firehouses. The safety and a families survival, should be the concern. Simple physics would be that if at night the “guaranteed response” would be coming from Headquarters than adding two miles to New Hyde Park Rd or a mile to Grove Street you would have to add more response time. One might call that a “no-brainer” Someone is not telling the truth or “exaggerating” their figures. Maybe the Professional Firefighters are interested in educating the residents on something taken for granted. Maybe the Professional Firefighters are interested in the safety of the residents of the village. The BOT should do a little more research on the topic or get a “second opinion” before they make any more moves or cuts to our safety. They have spent thousands and thousands of village dollars over the past 18 or 19 years on study’s for St Paul’s. They spend a few minutes and $36,000 on a study to reduce the safety of every resident in the village. Something is not right in “Camelot”. GC News Trustee Explains Positions 4.) Fire Department- We are one of the two communities on Long Island that maintain a combination fire department. There are 213 volunteer departments and two combination departments on Long Island. The paid force in the village is to supplement our volunteer forces. We have approximately 100 volunteers who are assisted by 31 paid firefighters. Many of the volunteers are from NYFD personnel. The department is run by our Chief and Assistant Chiefs. The Chief of the department is a volunteer and all personnel report to the Chief at the fire. The chief directs all responders to a fire; the paid force, as well as the volunteer force. That arrangement has been in place for over 50 years. To be correct Mr Donnelly, in Nassau County there are only 72 Fire Departments, and Suffolk County has 110. As for NYFD personnel, to my knowledge there are only four that are active or retired firefighters and live in the village. There are also one possibly two others who are dispatchers. Your numbers, and the word “many” are exaggerated.
Chief's Office January 28, 2013 at 03:18 PM
There has been a lot of misinformation regarding the Fire Department and Statistics of the Fire Department being published in the media. The ICMA received ALL data from the Official Fire Department Computer System, Nassau County Fire Communications (FireCom) and the Garden City Police Department. Since the ICMA report and implementation of some of the recommendations, the Fire Department's response time has DECREASED. The Chief's Office continually monitors response times via a monthly report received from FireCom. Should any resident have questions regarding the Fire Department, please contact the Chief's Office via e-mail chiefs@gcfdny.com. Please include your name, address and phone number so that we can get back to you. The Chief's Office Garden City Fire Department

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